Already cheered by the prospect of mass-suicide by the city’s property agents, Hong Kong attains unsurpassed joy on learning of two more exciting developments.
First is the news that Louis Vuitton, manufacturer of ugly, impractical and overpriced women’s bags (and the bags themselves are pretty unappealing), is suffering some sort of collapse in business and halting expansion of its no-doubt tacky premises in Causeway Bay. Other space-wasting vendors of luxury-brand baubles for the educationally sub-normal will move in, but there is a long-overdue smell of retail blood in the air. The market for pricy tat is peaking, thanks to ‘soaring rents and a crackdown on corruption in the Mainland’.
How interesting: the designer-label industry drives local shops and restaurants out of Hong Kong neighbourhoods in the course of feeding off the theft, intimidation and bribery taking place in China. Could a business model get any more parasitical if it tried? And how intriguing the thought that it was the Chinese Communist Party that enabled and indirectly nurtured the beast before, we hope, killing it off. This is good news for Macau as well, as we can see from the way a hint of possible measures against money-laundering hits casino stocks.
The second reason for rejoicing is the mouth-watering possibility of golf courses being reclaimed to provide badly needed housing. This sort-of has ‘too good to be true’ written all over it. The officials concerned mention the idea in that dispassionate and thoughtful tone that signifies bullshit – like former Constitutional Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam when he used to intone on his latest vacuous proposal for political non-reform.
Having said that, this is the exact opposite of a Stephen Lam scheme in that just about everyone is bound to love it. Now they’ve mentioned it, can our leaders possibly back down without having millions of us rampaging onto the links/fairways/bogeys or whatever up at Fanling and just tearing the greens to shreds? Could this be Chief Executive CY Leung at his most cunningly wolf-like and diabolical? By tormenting the tycoons who plot his demise while putting shots at their beloved HK Golf Club, and winning him badly needed public approval, it would be populism at its finest.
Some private golf clubs pay nominal rents to the government while running the site like an exclusive club for the rich … This is blatant exploitation. The government should return the land to the people.
One of his counterparts, one Lau Ping-cheung, presents an imaginative alternative view …
…we need to discuss and understand the possible social impact, because Hong Kong is an open city with lots of rich people and foreigners who might be interested in golf.
So: this free-trading city has millionaires and outsiders who possibly find pleasure in hitting a little ball around a field with a stick –therefore its residents cannot have affordable homes. And we thought the politicians we had heard of were insane.
Which brings us to the key point. Some bores say that one of the three 18-hole golf courses at Fanling should be preserved because it hosts the international Hong Kong Open tournament every year. They are putting the cart before the horse. We face a classic win-win here. We look the other way when we see ragged schizoids sleeping under bridges because they shout at invisible people and smell bad. We prefer to forget they exist. Similarly, we leave golfers to plod around out in Fanling in their pink knickerbockers because they are so crushingly tedious to have around. (The only thing interesting about them is that statistically they are 20 times likelier than average to be struck by lightning.) Hong Kong has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to permanently solve both the scourge of unaffordable housing, and the tragic mental illness that is golf.
To quote CY Leung: “Hong Kong is not short of land, but we are short of determination.”